Mediterranean Shipping Company. (MSC) has announced that its cruise division, Mediterranean Shipping Cruises, today confirmed an order for a new 1,600-passenger capacity cruise ship to be built by the French shipyard, Chantiers de l'Atlantique at St. Nazaire at a cost of $250 million. Negotiations are also in progress for a second ship of the same capacity. Backed by a network of MSC owned offices and affiliated agents worldwide, Mediterranean Shipping Cruises is the only cruise company totally capitalized in Italy. It is part of the MSC Group of Companies, one of the world's largest shipping groups with $2.5 billion in assets. Ranked as the fourth largest container operator in the world, MSC also operates 140 container ships in direct and relay services around the world, serving 166 ports on five continents. Ten new 6,700-TEU containerships were ordered last year, and the first of these will be delivered in 2001. With this new cruise ship order, Mediterranean Shipping Cruises increases its cruise cabin capacity by 60 percent, from 2,400 to 4,000 berths per night. The new 60,000-ton cruise liner will have 800 cabins, including 130 suites with private verandahs. Passenger capacity, based on lower beds, will be 1,600. The total capacity, all berths, will be 2,200 passengers. To increase comfort levels and reduce engine noise aboard the ship, MSC has ordered the installation of a technically advanced propulsion system, AZIPOD. MSC will take delivery of the new cruise liner in the Spring of 2003, bringing its fleet total to four ships. If an order for a second ship is confirmed, delivery would take place in 2004.